HARTFORD ——What was already a bitter and ugly divorce between Richard Shenkman and Nancy Tyler turned violent on July 7, 2009, the day police say Shenkman kidnapped Tyler at gunpoint, held her against her will and burned the house they once shared in South Windsor.
On Monday at Superior Court in Hartford, Shenkman is scheduled to go on trial. He faces charges that include first-degree kidnapping, attempted arson, carrying a pistol without a permit, violating a protective order, assault and threatening. Shenkman plans an insanity defense.
The state's case will focus on the events of July 7, 2009. Shenkman allegedly kidnapped his ex-wife at about 9 a.m. from the parking garage at CityPlace in Hartford, and had her drive them to the home they once shared at 96 Tumblebrook Drive in South Windsor.
The situation quickly evolved into a standoff with police. Shenkman, the state charges, was armed with a handgun and had Tyler handcuffed to him. He told police that he'd fortified the house and placed booby traps around it. The standoff went into the early morning hours of July 8, although Tyler had escaped at about 8:30 p.m. Shenkman, still armed and in the house, allegedly fired at police and begged them to shoot him. He then allegedly set fire to the house and was taken into custody, largely unharmed, after the house burned to the ground around him.
Jurors will also hear recordings of the police negotiations with Shenkman that day, including his demands that police bring body bags for him and Tyler, that a priest be called to marry them, and his demands that police return Tyler to the house after she escaped.
Once the state rests its case, Shenkman's defense attorney, Hugh Keefe of New Haven, will work to convince the jury that Shenkman was mentally ill during the ordeal, and therefore not legally responsible.
Prosecutor Vicki Melchiorre has experts who will rebut the claim of mental illness.
Details of the nasty divorce will be part of the trial as well. Dewey reviewed a binder of emails Shenkman sent Tyler and others, and has ruled that many can be presented to the jury.
Shenkman still faces trial at Superior Court in New London, where he is charged with torching an East Lyme house the couple once owned.